March 7: Civil rights marchers attacked by state troopers; Seattle's first telephone exchange
Selma March - 1965
This date marks the first of three marches that cumulatively became pivotal to the Civil Rights Movement and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This first attempted march from Selma, Alabama to the state capitol in Birmingham is arguably the most famous of the three. When the marchers, led by future congressman John Lewis (then age 24) among others, attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were viciously driven back by Alabama State Troopers and vigilante ‘possemen’ afoot and on horseback, using billy clubs and tear gas. Many marchers were injured; John Lewis suffered a fractured skull.
That evening, in a rather bitter juxtaposition of events, the ABC television network interrupted its programming to report on the march. And I say ‘bitter’ because the program that was interrupted was the first television showing of the 1961 film ‘Judgement At Nuremberg,’ a blockbuster about the Nazi war-crimes trials. This TV premiere was a big deal, so approximately 50 million Americans watched the report on the bloody rout in Selma. One minute viewers were watching a story about people being tried for atrocities in Europe in WWII; the next they were watching atrocities that has occurred that very day, right here in America.
Here's a piece I did for the NPR music website some years ago. It’s a collection of primarily jazz arrangements of songs which reflect the spirit of that era of The Movement.
Tina Turner record ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ - 1966
I’m bringing this event into today’s spotlight just so I have an excuse to share the song. It’s a powerhouse collaboration between Tina Turner and producer Phil Spector. Talk about ‘invigorating’…
The first telephone exchange arrives in Seattle - 1883
Sometime prior to 1883, a guy with the last name of Melse came up to Seattle from California. (This was back during the good old days when you could still come to Seattle from ‘out of state’ and not be blamed for everything.) Melse had apparently decided that phones were his future.
He set up The Sunset Telephone Company on 2nd and Cherry and went looking for subscribers to his new-fangled service—25 bucks for the installation and $2.50 a month thereafter. He ended up with about 90 takers; mostly attorneys and drinking establishments. Oh, and three judges. The History Link website lists all the original customers and even provides us with the four most frequently-called numbers—one brewery, one liquor store and two bars.
One of those four most popular numbers belonged to the Funk & Dickman Saloon. We may extrapolate that this high-tech innovation at Funk & Dickman also provided the Northwest with its first foray into prank phone calls.